Treat your elders with respect!
The story of “Lucky Grandma” is set in Chinatown of Lower Manhattan, where an elderly woman (Tsai Chin) believes October 28 (my birthday for the record) would be the luckiest day of her life, according to her fortune teller (Wai Ching Ho). So, she goes to a casino, to become a high roller, but ends up flat broke. That is until she finds a bag of money from a dead man on the bus, and decides to kick it up a notch with her lifestyle.
This isn’t a formula “Casino” and “Ocean’s 11” movie; it’s a chance for Chin to express herself in ways you never would seem to guess from this professional actress. It manages to sneak in the humor, when you least expect it, and there’s a certain style of wackiness and drama that brings out the best of “Lucky Grandma.”
And FYI, we like to call her Grandma Wong or just Grandma.
Of course, there are always consequences to her deception. In her case, she finds herself being threatened by a gang known only as “The Red Dragon.” So, she hires a a giant bodyguard (standing over 6’6) named Big Pong (Hsiao-Yuan Ha) to protect her at a discount price from $5,000 to $2,000, of course. He can beat the bad guys, but inside, he’s a softie. That’s how their chemistry works.
And what’s more is that the old man, Mr. Lin, was the accountant for the rival gang called “Zhonhliang.” So, the money belongs to them. And ergo, she’s now caught in a gang war.
Writer/director Sasie Sealy and co-writer Angela Cheng both provide “Lucky Grandma” with a strong female lead, silly villains, a good-natured bodyguard, and the consequences of getting in too deep. She decides to keep the money, but what would she gain out of it? She thinks she can have a better life than she has, but it also puts her and her family in danger. Chin is riveting in this particular role, while Ha adds a nice touch to his character.
There are some snake eyes in some part of the script, and I didn’t like the scene when one of the gangsters slices his own tongue to show that he feels no pain. I know crime movies take risks in that notion, but I still can’t handle it.
Aside from them, I’ve enjoyed the movie for its ability to sell itself out, and draw characters with ambition and style. Not every bodyguard can be violent on the inside, and not every gangster can be as tough as Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas” or “Casino.”
“Lucky Grandma” balances comedy, drama, and action without each genre upstaging one another. Let’s not forget how the score composed by Andrew Orkin represents each scene with charisma, wit, and danger. It can be mellow, upbeat, or thrilling, and that’s how I’d like to describe the film.
Available for Streaming on The Showroom’s Virtual Cinema